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India bank on Pujara, Kohli & Rahane to evade initial perils, mainly from Rabada

article_imageDAY THREE PREVIEW
Last updated on 12 Jan 2022 | 08:42 PM
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India bank on Pujara, Kohli & Rahane to evade initial perils, mainly from Rabada

Pujara and Rahane have forged two century partnerships in the last three innings in away Tests in the second innings

Just like the previous Test, at the end of day two, the game is in perfect balance. To be precise, throughout the series, the pattern has been similar. In the first two days where there has been play, ignoring the second-day washout in the first Test, the first innings of both teams were done and dusted with India batting at stumps.

Coming back to this Test, despite scoring a paltry total of 223 in the first innings, India have gained a lead of 13 runs. Jasprit Bumrah was the star this time with a five-for. In fact, Indian bowlers have been so good in the first innings, that they haven’t let South Africa score over 230 in the three matches. In each of the three innings, there has been a different hero for India in the bowling department with a five-for, a testimony of their dominance.    

India’s opening pair of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal once again failed to capitalise on the advantage. Cheteshwar Pujara, who has found his mojo to some extent, anchored with the skipper Virat Kohli, who himself played a sublime innings earlier in the match, to see off the day for India. With a lead of 70 runs, India are in the driver’s seat. However, this Test has a long way to go, it is just the end of day two. This means, the result is a sure-shot outcome.

But, the question over here is, in whose favour will the result tilt? India are ahead with a slight advantage. Again, it is all up to the batting unit to post a respectable total and for sure, they will be banking on the most experienced players, Kohli, Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.

Pujara’s good rapport with others in the second Innings

Pujara has struggled in recent times, but the number three batter has the tendency to do well in the second innings. In the second Test, his knock of 53 propelled India to a score of 266.

In Tests since December 2020, Pujara in the 12 innings he has batted in the first innings has scored at an average of 17.3 with only one half-century. Whereas, in as many innings in the second, he has scored at an average of 43.8 with five half-centuries, a definite positive sign.

There is another factor that shines bright for Indian fans. Pujara in the second innings has a good rapport with the remaining batters in Tests. With Kohli at the other end, the pair have posted 1242 runs at an average of 38.8 in 34 innings. The partnership between Rahane and Pujara has been even better. The pair averages 41.5 in 19 innings together with three century partnerships. Out of those three century partnerships, two have come in the last three times they have batted together. One against England at Lord’s and another in the Johannesburg Test.

Pant and Pujara have batted only twice in the second innings and in both innings they forged a 50+ partnership and both were in back-to-back matches. 148 in Sydney in 2021 and 61 in the Gabba Test.  

The first session threats

India have had a history of bad first sessions, the first innings of the first Test is the latest example. They lost seven wickets in the first session for just 49 runs. To their worst, day three’s first session at Newlands has seen wickets fall in a flurry. In Tests since 2018, in the first session of day three, teams have lost a wicket every 19.8 runs and 39.1 balls. The average runs/wicket is the worst across the first sessions of all the days.

On the other hand, India in away Tests since December 2020, have lost a wicket every 17.7 runs and 40.6 balls in the first session of day three. They have lost 35 wickets in 10 innings.

Rabada, deadly in the first session

In an innings which was deemed as Kohli’s finest – the first innings of this Test – there was one bowler who troubled Kohli the most and that was Rabada. He had induced 18.1 percent of false shots from Kohli in the first innings when none of the other pacers were able to induce more than 10.8 percent. In this innings as well, Rabada started the proceedings with the wicket of Mayank.

In this series, Rabada has bagged 18 wickets so far and eight of those have come in the first session of the day at a bowling strike rate of 36 and an average of 15.9. In the second innings of the second Test, his three-wicket burst in the first session after the drinks break was the reason South Africa were able to win the Test.

In a span of three overs, he pouched Rahane to break the 111-run partnership and then got rid of the set Pujara (53) followed by Pant for a duck. In the first Test as well, he bagged three wickets on the third day’s first session.

Apart from the three-wicket burst on the third day of the first Test, Lungi Ngidi hasn’t fared well and Marco Jansen as well doesn’t possess a great threat. However, Jansen has been deadly in the second and third sessions of the day. But, it is all thanks to the vital breakthroughs provided by Rabada in the first session.

As far as the target is concerned, India need to score above 250 at any cost to have a shot at winning this Test and creating history. In Tests since South Africa’s readmission in 1991, only one team has lost while chasing a target between 100-250 at Newlands and that has been India in 2018. They were all-out for 135 while chasing 208. 

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